Challenge Problems

Each week, during MSAM April 2019, we will post challenge problems. Individuals may submit their solutions.

All correct solutions will be placed in drawings for Amazon Gift Cards. The categories for the drawings are middle school students, high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and non-student.

Solutions are submitted via email to with the subject line MSAM Challenge.

Entry must include a brief description of the statistical problem solving process used and the problem solution.

Entry must include an acknowledgement of sources utilized or assistance received.

Submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EDT on the designated date.

Week One Problem

Solutions due - April 14, 2019 by 11:59 PM EDT

The 123rd running of the Boston Marathon will take place on April 15, 2019. There are 29 athletes who are members of the U.S. Elite team. The first Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month Challenge is to use statistical thinking and problem solving to predict which male and female member of the the elite team will have the fastest Boston time.

Solutions are due by 11:59 PM on April 14th. Submit your solutions via email to

Week Two Problems

Solutions due - April 22, 2019 by 11:59 PM EDT

1. Suppose that 5 people sit at a circular table that has 20 chairs altogether. If all possible ways of the people sitting at the table are equally likely, find the probability that there is no pair of adjacent people.

2. A drone can move 1 unit (per step), in any of these 6 directions: north, south, east, west, up, down. If we randomly send the drone 6 commands, with all sequences of 6 commands equally likely (and repetitions are allowed), find the probability that (overall) the 6 commands have no effect. In other words, find the probability that the drone returns to the place where it started, before receiving the 6 commands. Note: Assume that the drone starts (at least) 6 feet high, so that we do not crash the drone!

Thanks to Dr. Mark Daniel Ward, Department of Statistics, Purdue University for these problems.

Solutions are due by 11:59 PM on April 22nd. Submit your solutions via email to

Week Three Problem

For this week's challenge use the Explore Health Rankings ( option provided by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program to create a data visualization. Search for your current county of residence and download the 2018 County Health Rankings. Use the “Ranked Measure Data” to create a data visualization. Submit your visualization and brief explanation of how it was created, why you chose to create it, and what insights it provided. Submissions are due by 11:59 PM on April 29th. Submit your solutions via email to

Watch online Now!

Stephanie Kovalchik, research fellow at the Institute of Sport, Exercise, and Active Living, Victoria University and senior sport scientist with the Game Intelligence Group, Tennis Australia

Eric Laber, Associate Professor, North Carolina State University and Director, Laber Labs

Ruby Bayliss, Doctoral Student and Dr. Loni Tabb, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University